Postcode Lottery Ad featuring Emma Willis Wins ASA's Approval

England and Wales


On 1 October 2022, the Advertising Standards Authority (the “ASA”) introduced a new gambling advertising rule (a summary of which can be read here) which strengthened the obligations on gambling operators to ensure the content of their advertisements (“ads”) does not appeal to under 18s. At the time, questions were raised as to what would constitute a “strong appeal”, but a number of rulings since the rule was introduced have provided useful insight into what is likely to fall within scope according to the ASA.

The ASA has previously upheld rulings regarding themes and personalities deemed to appeal to children, including well-known lower league footballers (see here) and imagery reminiscent of children’s cartoons and storybooks (see here).  Additionally, we note that the ASA will evaluate the ad as a whole. If only a few elements within it appeal to children, the ad is less likely to be considered strongly appealing to those under 18 (see here).

The Advertisement:

In a TV ad for the People’s Postcode Lottery, aired on 22 November 2023, Emma Willis is featured in a dressing room with the logo for the TV programme 'The Voice' visible through the dressing room mirror. Ms Willis encourages viewers to enter the lottery for a chance to win a share of the £17.3 million prize fund. The ad was challenged as likely to be of strong appeal to under 18s, thus breaching the BCAP Code.

The Response:

Postcode Lottery stated Ms Willis did not strongly appeal to individuals under 18, providing several reasons, including the following:

  • While Ms Willis was a presenter on 'The Voice Kids,' a programme showcasing under 18 singers, she was not a children’s TV presenter.
  •  ‘The Voice Kids’ was not likely to be of strong appeal to children. Postcode Lottery argued programmes featuring children do not necessarily appeal to them, pointing out that while parenting programmes often feature children, they themselves are not likely to find them appealing.
  • Broadcaster’s Audience Research Board (“BARB”) data showed the ‘The Voice Kids’ as well as other TV programmes presented by Ms Willis were not of strong appeal to children.
  • Ms Willis’ participation in such programmes has not resulted in her being viewed as aspirational or influential to those under 18. Postcode Lottery supported this with a demographic breakdown of her social media following, showing less than 1% of her followers on Instagram and Facebook were aged 13-17. Postcode Lottery also argued her content on social media was adult-oriented and any promotions were of adult-focused brands.
  • Previous ASA rulings which assessed individuals similar to Ms Willis were not considered to have strong appeal to those under 18.

Clearcast agreed with Postcode Lottery.

The Ruling:

The ASA dismissed the complaint.

The ASA reviewed Ms Willis’ presenter roles, noting that they were primarily for programmes aimed at adult audiences, thus not likely to appeal strongly to children. BARB data for recent series of those programmes supported this conclusion. The ASA also considered her role on Heart Radio and her work associated with ‘Big Brother,’ but deemed these less relevant as these roles concluded in 2018.

The ASA also evaluated her involvement in ‘The Voice’ since 2014 and ‘The Voice Kids’ since 2017. It noted that these shows aired during time slots typically considered suitable for family viewing, and that Ms Willis herself mentioned her own young children enjoyed the show. Additionally, Newsround, a BBC news programme for children, featured articles about ‘The Voice’. The ASA noted this, indicating that the BBC considered the programme to be of interest to children. The ASA found that despite not being specifically aimed at children, both the shows had a broad demographic appeal therefore, children watched them. The ASA also noted the direct association between Ms Willis and her presenting role on ‘The Voice’ in the ad, with ‘The Voice’ logo prominently featured. The ASA concluded that viewers under 18 who watched these shows would likely recognise Ms Willis as their presenter.

However, the ASA did review BARB data which demonstrated that both shows were more popular with older audiences. The ASA also noted that while Ms Willis hosted the shows, the focus was primarily on the contestants and judges. Consequently, the ASA did not consider Ms Willis’ role in the programmes as aspirational or influential to under 18s. Therefore, although children who watched the shows might recognise Ms Willis in the ad, the ASA found her appearance unlikely to appeal to under 18s.

The ASA examined Ms Willis' social media profiles, including her followers' demographics and posts. While she was active on Instagram, Facebook, and X, the ASA agreed with Postcode Lottery that the proportion of followers aged between 13-17 on Facebook and Instagram was not significant. Considering the low number of followers aged 13-17, the ASA believed that the number of followers under 13 was likely to be even lower, as younger users are less likely to have social media accounts. Due to limitations in X's reporting, the ASA could not obtain a demographic breakdown of Ms Willis' followers on that platform. However, they assumed it would be similar, if not lower, compared to Facebook and Instagram, as X is not as popular among young audiences. Consequently, the ASA agreed with the Postcode Lottery that Ms Willis' social media did not suggest strong appeal to young people.

Finally, the ASA reviewed Ms Willis' endorsement deals with brands like Gillette Venus, Oral B, Marks and Spencer, and Absolute Collage. It agreed with Postcode Lottery that these were adult-focused brands unlikely to appeal to under 18s.

For the reasons outlined above, the ASA concluded that the ad did not violate BCAP Code rules 18.5 (Lotteries) as Ms Willis was not likely to be of strong appeal to children, necessitating no further action.

Key Takeaways:

  1. An individual’s social media presence seems to be a frequent factor considered by the ASA in determining whether a person is likely to be of strong appeal to young people. See other examples here and here.
  2.  In assessing whether an individual is likely to be of strong appeal to those under 18, the ASA considers both the individual’s occupation and the timing of that role. If there is a gap between the role and the airing of the ad, the ASA might deem it irrelevant. Another example of this can be found here.
  3. The ASA will assess a range of sources when considering whether a personality appeals to young people, from BARB data supplied by advertisers to the types of commercial partnerships held by the individual.
  4. Companies should be vigilant in complying with advertising standards and carefully assess the potential appeal of their promotions to young audiences before launching an ad.

Co-authored by Chelsea Kent, trainee solicitor.